School and child-care contact tracing

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An illustration of two people wearing masks. On their left is written who can currently get the COVID-19? Vaccine? A button containing the word learn more.

Last revised on February 18, 2021

What does it mean to have been identified as a high risk contact?

Ottawa Public Health will advise you if you are a high-risk contact. As required by public health law in Ontario, high-risk contacts must self-isolate for 14 days (Health Promotion and Protection Act). In most cases OPH will recommend you (and/or your the members of your household) to get tested 7 days after you last came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Most people who become sick with COVID-19, show signs and symptoms approximately after 5 days of being exposed to someone with COVID-19, though some people who are infected do not have any symptoms. Testing is available by appointment ONLY at all testing sites. Please visit the OPH website for more information on Testing. 

If you are identified as a high-risk contact, all of your household members must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of your self-isolation period. Essential reasons to leave the home include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. People who live in your home (i.e. siblings, parents) with the person who is considered a high-risk contact do not need to self-isolate or to get tested. These people are “contacts of contacts” and are only required to self-isolate if someone in your family tests positive for COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or if they themselves were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If anyone in your household is or becomes symptomatic, then all household members need to isolate. 

Forms

  • Form A - Initial Case Intake:
    • For principals/designate to complete upon notification of a confirmed positive case associated with the school.
  • Form B Staff Identified as Contacts:

    • For staff to complete that may have been in contact with a confirmed positive case in school. Principal/designate to communicate dates and affected setting to staff members.

  • Form C Staff with Positive Test Result:

    • For staff to complete who have self-identified as having received a positive test result for COVID-19.

Frequently asked questions

What is considered a high-risk contact?

In order to quickly contact residents, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) uses automated messaging to reach out to high-risk contacts of COVID-19. Being a high-risk contact means that you (or a member of your household) were in contact with someone with COVID-19 for longer than 15 minutes and/or closer than 2 metre distance, in the last 2 weeks.

Ottawa Public Health identifies high risk “close contacts” through a detailed review of factors such as the individual’s symptoms, where they have been, and with whom they have interacted. Interactions where people briefly come within 2 metres (6 feet) of each other, such as walking by someone in a hallway or on the sidewalk, are generally not considered “close contacts”.

What does this mean for me and my family?

Ottawa Public Health will advise you if you are a high-risk contact. As required by public health law in Ontario, high-risk contacts must self-isolate for 14 days (Health Promotion and Protection Act). In most cases OPH will recommend you (and/or your members of your household) to get tested 7 days after you last came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Most people who become sick with COVID-19, show signs and symptoms approximately after 5 days of being exposed to someone with COVID-19, though some people who are infected do not show any symptoms. 

If you are identified as a high-risk contact, all of your household members must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of your self-isolation period. Essential reasons to leave the home include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. People who live in your home (i.e. siblings, parents) with the person who is considered a high-risk contact do not need to self-isolate or to get tested. These people are “contacts of contacts” and are only required to self-isolate if someone in your family tests positive for COVID-19 or if they themselves were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

What does self-isolation mean for my child and the members of my household?

When your child has been identified as a high-risk contact, and not showing symptoms, they are considered category orange on the Tested What Now Handout: they must self-isolate at home, meaning they need to stay home for at least 14 days from the date of their last exposure to the individual that tested positive. Children isolating are not to leave the home, unless to be tested for COVID-19 or for medical care. While at home, parents and caregivers are to monitor them for symptoms of COVID-19 each day. If the child is asymptomatic (has no symptoms) they can do their normal activities within the home and be in contact with the family.   

Family household members of children who are asymptomatic high- risk contacts  must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of the child‘s self-isolation period. Essential reasons to leave the home include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. will need to start self-isolation if their child develops symptoms, and the children who develop symptoms should be tested for COVID-19. If the child who is a high-risk contact or one of their household members develops symptoms, the person with symptoms should their risk category moves from Orange to Red on the Tested What Now Handout. They should wear a mask, be separated from other family members if possible and be tested for COVID-19. Family members are also required to self isolate while awaiting the test results of the child. If the results are negative the child must continue their 14-day isolation, but household members may end isolation and household members must continue to stay home except for essential reasons.   

Please note that schools may be asking your child to isolate for reasons other than being a high-risk contact, for example due to outbreak investigation or outbreak management. In these situations, the instructions for self-isolation and duration of self-isolation may be different than for high-risk contacts.  

What if my test is negative?

If you were identified as a high-risk contact and your test is negative, you still need to remain in isolation for 14 days and your household members must continue to stay home except for essential reasons. It can take up to 14 days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 for you to start showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and to test positive. Testing should take place no earlier than 7 days after initial close contact with a confirmed case, unless the contact has symptoms of COVID-19 or is advised otherwise by public health. The timing of testing is important as a person may be incubating (the time it takes for the disease to developdeveloping infection) and COVID-19 may not show on the test result if tested too early. 

Even if after waiting 7 days to be tested, the result is negative, it remains important for the contact to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days from exposure to the confirmed case, and for household members to stay home except for essential reasons. You will be helping to protect others because COVID-19 can develop up to 14 days after exposure even if you receive a negative test result earlier in the isolation period. 

How do you determine that someone is a high-risk contact?

Ottawa Public Health will identify all those who may be considered high-risk close contacts based on information provided by the individual who tested positive. As well, information is received from collaboration with the setting where the exposure took place, such as schools, day cares or workplaces.

Many factors must be considered when determining close contacts, including but not limited to: What were the shared spaces accessed by the individual(s) who has tested positive for COVID-19? Were they part of the same cohort as the individual who tested positive for COVID-19? (A cohort is a small sub-grouping of children that stay together and don’t interact with other cohorts in order to limit the risk of spread of the virus.) Was Personal Protective Equipment used (such as masks/face shields by school employees, and masks worn by other individuals)?

Does getting a message mean that the school or day care is in an outbreak?

No. An investigation will be done by Ottawa Public Health to determine who is affected.

The ability for the school or day care to remain open will be affected by how widespread transmission is throughout groups of individuals. This decision will be made in conversation between OPH and each setting based on the investigation.

Why does Ottawa Public Health sometimes use an automated message?

Ottawa Public Health uses automated messages when there are a high number of individuals to reach. It allows Ottawa Public Health to reach more people quickly, which helps people to isolate as soon as possible. This in turn reduces potential COVID-19 transmission in the community.

What does the first automated message sound like?

The precise message will vary.

The automated message will sound like this: 

 

This is an urgent message from Ottawa Public Health (OPH).
Dear Parents or Guardians,
An individual associated with {SchoolName} has tested positive for COVID-19 and a child in your household in {Cohort} has been identified as a high-risk contact. In order to continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and in schools, OPH is reaching out to high-risk contacts via this message.
What does this mean for you, your child and members of your household?

Please do NOT send your child to school. Your child needs to stay home until {ReturnDate} (inclusively), unless advised otherwise by OPH.

Even if your child does not currently have symptoms of COVID-19, all other members of your household must stay at home for the duration of your child’s self-isolation period, except for essential reasons, such as going to work/school/childcare, getting groceries, attending medical appointments and picking up prescriptions. If your child has or develops symptoms, they should be tested immediately and all other members of your household must self-isolate and only leave the home for medical reasons. If your child has or develops symptoms, please notify OPH at 613-580-6744, extension 74224.

Testing Information
Having your child tested is a key element in identifying the spread of COVID-19 and preventing further spread to others.
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, they should be tested immediately. If your child does not have symptoms, they should still be tested but please wait until {TestDate} (or after), as a result may not be accurate if your child is tested too early after the exposure.
When you get your child tested, please present the following testing number at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Ottawa.
Your child’s testing number is: {TestCode}.
Please note, because the incubation period for COVID-19 can be up to 14 days, a negative test result does not mean your child’s isolation period can end before {ReturnDate}.
Other household members only need to be tested if they develop symptoms, or if someone in the household receives a positive test result.

For guidance and additional information, please visit:
OttawaPublicHealth.ca/ContactTracing
If you require supports in complying with isolation during this period, please call 2-1-1.
Thank you,
Ottawa Public Health 

Why would I continue to get automated messages for 14 days?

Ottawa Public Health uses technology to rapidly follow-up with all high-risk contacts to ensure that they are following public health guidance and staying in isolation. You will continue to receive this automated message for the duration of your or your family member’s isolation period. Please listen to the message very carefully.

Where do I call if I want to speak with a nurse?

If you have questions that have not been answered above or in our frequently asked questions page and you would like to speak with a public health nurse, please call 613-580-6744 and follow the prompts to the COVID-19 phone line. Our phone line is open Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 6:00pm, and on weekends from 9am to 4pm.


 

COVID-19 Update

Contact Information

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 telephone line

  • Monday to Friday, from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Weekends, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

 

 

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